Wednesday, November 4

Sly – The Cat Empire - Melody

Sly – The Cat Empire - Melody
View the video HERE. Purchase on iTunes HERE.

Creating Contrast with Minor AND Major Pentatonic scales

Sly presents an interesting challenge because at least a third of the song is sort of sung/spoke…so the melody pops in and out. Even so, there’s some really interesting melodic contrast used VERY effectively between the verses and chorus.

The verse is primarily an E minor pentatonic scale (over an E major chord). I’m going to call this the rock and roll melody from now on because it happens so frequently. It allows the song to have some edginess credibility without losing the joy of the major chord.  

What’s brilliant is they switch to a (partial) E MAJOR pentatonic in the chorus. This allows the verse and chorus to have their own flavor…the chorus feels like it moves somewhere, even though the notes stay primarily in the same range. The chorus sounds fresh because the notes are NEW!

Creating Contrast with Melody Shape

Melodic shape is another area where these guys created contrast. (I should point out here that contrasting the melody in both sections keeps the song interesting…a lot of songwriters unknowingly fall into the trap of making their verse and chorus TOO similar, so that the chorus has no effect. The chorus becomes a rehash of verse ideas, instead of having its own personality). “Sly” allows both sections to have different personalities. The verse is edgier, while the chorus is party all the time. You get to rock and roll all night AND party every day.

The verse melody (when not being spoken) starts high, then falls down the scale and meanders between the root and b3 (which is what gives it the edge…because remember, he’s singing the b3 over a major chord).

The chorus melody moves back up…in fact, it tends to leap upward, which is another nice contrast. Imagine running down a flight of stairs in the verse, and then when you get to the bottom, you go back up, but instead of hitting every stair you leap over two or three pulling yourself up with the handrail. You cover the same distance in less time, which is exactly what happens between the verse and chorus melody. That’s a great trick to steal for your own songs

Melody Craftsman or Lucky?

Though the shapes stay consistent between the sections, the actual notes they sing vary wildly. I don’t think it’s a matter of luck, I think they just have good ears. I think some of the fun wildness of the song would be lost if the melody was “crafted” more than it was. Then again, without knowing how the song actually came about, we are left to guessing and speculation.

What does count is what we hear and how it affects us. Like I revealed yesterday, I love this song. It’s not perfect, but it makes me so very happy when I listen to it.

Now go write something that makes you happy.


PS. The poll for the Saturday song is in a 3-way tie. That kind of surprises me. I wonder how it will turn out. Also remember that you can submit your lyrics HERE, for consideration to be analyzed on Friday’s blog.

1 comment:

Ishita Rungta said...

This definitely is my kind of melody. There is an un-concocted artlessness about the melody that makes it memorable. I love what you say about the verse-chorus contrast: “you get to rock and roll all night AND party every day…rather than just rock and roll all through or sing a lullaby in the verses and then suddenly go WHAM in the chorus as a lot of songs do…wow I love the intricate analysis of the melody in the verse…I guess we could experiment with that using our own distinctiveness in melody. I love the stair analogy…I got it…Thanks.
Hmmm at the end of it all am so glad you don’t tie us to sheer rules…you give us the tools and the ability to maneuver them but you give us the autonomy to write what makes us happy and makes us feel ourselves.

You are a blessing to Teacher hood.